Cate Le Bon and H. Hawkline – Live at the Electric Circus Edinburgh, 16th Sept. 2014

Cate Le Bon Well that was rather good. And the thing is, even as a non-Cate Le Bon fan (for reasons of ignorance not dislike, I hasten to add) I kind of knew I was going to love this. I saw her once ages ago playing solo and wasn’t all that struck, to be honest, but that kind of thing can happen for dozens of reasons. I’ve heard enough since from friends of mine who love her that I knew this would be ace though – although not so much just that they love her stuff either, more the way they talked about it, I think.

H. Hawkline opened, and I didn’t catch the lot, but I really enjoyed his set. He is a favourite of the late and dearly lamented Cloud Sounds podcast, and I think I preferred the slightly more aggro flavour of the live show. He was a fine frontman too – not confrontational really, in that strutting, cocky way, but with a sense of defiance and self-possession to his body language.

There is definitely what sounds like a rather characteristic thread running through a lot of Welsh psychedelic indie pop. My only real reference is Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci (a comparison I am slightly nervous that everyone in Wales will be utterly sick of at this point – THERE IS MORE THAN ONE WELSH BAND YOU IGNORANT ASSHOLE!) but there does seem to be a common thread, even when the music is still pulled in all sorts of other directions as well. Welsh psyche-pop seems as well established a thing as earnestly emotive Scottish indie.

Anyway, my basic conclusion listening to H. Hawkline is that yes, Ted from Cloud Sounds was right, this guy is awesome and I need to buy some of his records.

One of the nice things about the little cluster of likeminded individuals in the Welsh music community who seem to be loosely clustered around the brilliant Shape Records is the sense of community and genuine lack of ego they seem to have. You may have had Sweet Baboo (who is signed to Moshi Moshi) playing bass in both these bands, but there was no sense of ‘look at me’ or any musical showing off.

Likewise when Cate Le Bon herself was playing in H. Hawkline’s band, she just got on with her job, clearly enjoyed the music and didn’t interfere at all with the focus of attention. I know that should be an absolute assumption about playing in a band, but I always like seeing it in musicians – it just seems to imply that they’re there because they just enjoy the music the same as we are, and that’s kinda nice, really.

Anyhow, Cate Le Bon. Well yes, she was bloody excellent. She had a similar stage presence to H. Hawkline actually – defiant and compelling, but not cocky, exactly. It was pretty much always at ‘fuck yeah’ levels without ever overstepping into ‘what a pillock’, which some acts seem to fall for all too easily.

The music is a gentle sort of psyche-pop, which occasionally spills over into something far more wild and feral. The fact that the band only crank it up that extra notch once or twice seems to make it even better for some reason – you know the extra gear is there, but it’s still a surprise when it launches out from the stage.

It was a bit like the drumming actually – mostly tight and disciplined, with only the odd moment of total mentalism to show you that actually, holy shit, he was some drummer. Cate’s guitar playing was sort of similar. Mostly what she was playing seemed fairly simple, although I am a non-musician who wouldn’t necessarily know – but the sounds she makes with her guitar aren’t like anyone else I can think of. The whole band was like that actually – a surprisingly simple setup for music with such depth and presence.

Generally, though, the music is more restrained, but there is a really hypnotic sense of motion to it. I went to this gig with a pal who refused to let me write this review without listening to Marquee Moon by Television, which oddly I have never even so much as heard, and although it’s pretty clear that Le Bon is strongly informed by it, I honestly haven’t listened to either album in enough depth to say anything beyond ‘oh right, yes of course!’

Still, listening back to her latest album Mug Museum, there was definitely something more intense and thrilling about the live show. It was more menacing and more aggressive, and the more psychedelic elements wilder, without ever being anything less than tight and under control.

Great stuff though. Album duly ordered, and I won’t make the mistake of shrugging ‘oh yes, Cate Le Bon’ again, that’s for sure.

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